Archives for January 2017

Introduction-It’s All About The Mother-in-law Bible Study by Lynn Autry

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It’s All About the

Mother-in-Law

  Bible Study

A biblical and personal journey through the land of in-laws

Lynn Autry

Author & Teacher

Introduction

When you hear the word mother-in-law, what is the first thought that comes into your mind? Is it nice or not so nice thought? Most of you probably thought of a controlling, nagging and meddling old woman. Okay, I found out a few years ago I was going to be a mother-in-law. Something started happening in my relationship with my son when he got serious about a girl. In conversations with him, I was being excluded in decisions. I started finding out I needed to consider her opinion and what she wanted as well as my son. I was adding another person into my family.  Many things started to change in my family and my life.

So what is a mother-in-law? A mother-in-law is defined as the mother of one’s spouse. She is the female parent of one’s spouse. In-laws are family partners connected by circumstances and law. One of the earliest sayings about in-laws shows a poor view of a mother-in-law. According to this sixteenth-century saying found in the Oxford English Dictionary, “Mothers-in-lawes beare [sic] a stepmother’s hate unto their daughters-in-lawes,[sic]. I never realized how hard it was to be a mother-in-law until I became one. In-laws are expected to immediately get along beautifully even though the husband, wife and parents come with our own history, needs, set ways, baggage and customs into the new family relationship.

My mother-in-law was the one God knew I needed. She made the position of being a mother-in-law look easy; however, I quickly realized it was not easy. The loving relationship I have enjoyed with my in-laws over the past 33+ years didn’t happen overnight. We all made a real effort to have an awesome relationship. There was little out there to help me through the mother-mother-in-law transition. Being a mother-in-law has been described as being a blind person in an unfamiliar room. When you bump against things, you don’t know why and what you have bumped into.[i]

In the United States, more than 51% of the adult population is married and living with a spouse. This means that about 120 million people in the United States will probably have in-laws at any given time. Most newly married couples have parents who are alive and involved in their lives. This means that there are around 9.6 million new in-law relationships created every year and 75 percent of couples’ report that they have some problems with at least one in-law. [ii] The group that forms when a couples get married includes the married couple and the parents of each one in the couple. There could be at least six people in a marriage.

Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships are still one of the most talked about relationships for most married women. The topic of in-laws is like a lightning rod filled hurt and anger in the relationship.  I seemed to be changing in people’s eyes from a loving mother who wanted what was best for her children to a wicked mother-in-law. So, what happened?

Why do mothers-in-law get such a bad rap?  “American journalist Walter Lippman coined the word stereotype and defined it as an ‘a picture in our head’.” He said, “Whether right or wrong, imagination is shaped by the pictures seen. These pictures lead to stereotypes that are hard to shake.”[iii] Mother-in-law is a stereotype that has a negative image around the world such as divisive and meddlesome. When you use stereotypes, you may make a lot of assumptions based on very little evidence. When something is said, or done that make us upset, we may revert to our stereotype of what a mother-in-law is.[iv] The eighteenth-century English novelist Henry Fielding said, “The word mother-in-law has a terrible sound.”[v] Daughters-in-law and sons-in-law do not realize when they get married how in-laws will affect many of their day-to-day decisions. The needs of in-laws can stake a large claim on family decisions.

A recent book by a British relationship expert, Dr. Terri Apter, suggests that even if a wife or future wife wanted to like her in-law she already has an expectation that they won’t get along. More than 200 people, including 49 couples, were interviewed for the book. Three out of four couples said they experienced conflict with their in-laws.[vi] The book suggests that the “mutual unease may have less to do with actual attitudes and far more to do with persistent female stereotypes that few of us manage to shake off completely.” She added, “Both mother and wife are struggling to achieve the same position in the family-primary woman.”[vii] Humor and jokes about one’s mother-in-law are widespread on television and movies. For example, in the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond” the mother-in-law-daughter-in-law relationship is portrayed as very tense. It can be hard to get pass this stereotype.  Daughters-in-law may lock their mothers-in-law into the negative stereotype and everything her mother-in-law does is seen through this stereotype. A web search of the word “mother-in-law,” will return a huge amount of results for a bad mother-in-law. There are many demeaning web sites that depict mothers-in-law as monsters, apes etc. There is even a houseplant with razor-sharp leaves called a mother-in-law’s tongue. There are many jokes, stories, songs, skits and movies that are dehumanizing and cruel to mothers-in-law. Stereotypes claim each person in a certain group shares similar characteristics. Since by definition each person is different from each other then stereotypes are not a logical possibility for mothers-in-law.

Couples are often unprepared to manage the impact of an overlapping family. Marriage is not just simply between two people, but marriage unites two existing families and a new forming family. The relationship between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law can be one of the biggest challenges of married life. “According to researchers at Utah State University, nearly 60 percent of all marriages suffer from tension with mothers-in-law, normally between the daughter-in-law and her husband’s mother.”[viii]

So why are there so many misunderstandings? There are several reasons. Women may resent mothers-in-law who stop by or call often.  Resentment can occur with family gatherings. Your own family will likely mean more to you than your in-laws so when you fail to negotiate time with both it can lead to in-law conflict. The mother may have a hard time letting go especially if it is her first son to get married. Mothers-in-law may also have a hard time with not giving advice. Lack of concern for differences in each person can cause hurt. Neither in-law may use kindness in resolving issues with the other person. The insecurities of each woman from underlying issues from the past can affect conflict that neither can win. The relationship is made difficult because the two women are strangers with differing generations.

One of the problems in relationships is expectations. We all come into an in-law relationship with expectations. We believe strongly at times that a person will act a certain way in the relationship.

A daughter-in-law expects that her husband’s parents will welcome her into the family and will accept her as herself. A mother-in-law expects her daughter-in-law will love, respect, and accept her as the mother of her husband. A father-in-law expects his position to be respected. A son-in-law looks for respect and support for what he can bring into this new family. When our expectations are not met, we are left wondering what to do. Our disappointment can color our view of the person who has disappointed us. Michael Bender said, “Disappointing people’s expectations is inevitable. Just do it at a rate they can tolerate.”  A fact of life is we are going to disappoint people and people will disappoint us. Do we have to do it all at once I wonder? With disappointment sometimes comes the change God is introducing into our life. Expectation, change and disappointment sometimes hit us all at once. When that happens, we are hurt. Expectations are a part of life but how we handle them does not have to be. That is where God comes in. God guides us through our emotions and helps us get beyond the expectations and changes.

In the book “Toxic In-Laws,” Dr. Susan Forward says there are several common in-law conflict traps. Some of them are:  1. Getting caught up in the victim mentality. This can create a sense of hopelessness. 2. Overreacting. It may take the form of explosion, a tantrum, yelling, angry silence, or any form of behavior in which the intensity of the response is way out of proportion. 3. Underreacting- which has its roots in fear. The longer you suppress your anger and upsets, the greater chance sooner or later what you have suppressed will blow if you do not forgive. 4. Having unrealistic expectations of yourself. An in-law convinces herself that anyone who has got it together as well as she does can handle any in-law problem. 5. Having unrealistic expectations of your in-laws. An in-law may expect her in-laws to be parents she always wanted.[ix]

The most common pattern of conflict is between the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law and the son and husband who most often doesn’t even know a battle is going on. The mother-in-law has experienced a big change and loss. The daughter-in-law wants to be supported, left alone and the most important person in her husband’s life. These two women are decades apart wanting the love of the same man.[x]

Dr. Forward also says we have “In-Law myths” that are wishful thinking and not grounded in reality. The in-law myths are between the daughter-in-law and her husband’s parents or the son-in-law and the wife’s parents. I believe some of these myths can be used also for the mother-in-law to the daughter-in-law or the son-in-law to the father-in-law. Some of these are 1. Things will get better after we’re married. This may happen with little effort but the effort made before the wedding could end if they do not see a need to try.  2. Things will get better after they get to know me. Time and familiarity alone do not knit together relationships. 3. Things will get better once there are grandchildren. Conflict can increase with grandchildren. All parties have their own opinions on parenting.  4. If I do what they want, they’ll have to like me. When we try to please at all costs, we lose part of ourselves. It becomes all about us trying to please and not about God’s spirit working through us in love, grace, patience, submission etc. 5. They’re not my children, so how much can they bother me? If they disapprove of you, it will affect you. Hurts will build up without forgiveness. 6. They live in another state, so we won’t have to deal with them very much. If you want a close relationship with your child and his/her spouse, avoidance is not the answer. Relationships are built with love and respect not distance and silence.[xi]

Terri Apter in the book “What Do You Want from Me” says in primary relationships we struggle to get things right and preserve love. Apter says she has found four uncomfortable truths about the context of in-laws. Many people in dealing with their in-laws have a tendency toward bias and resentment that does not show elsewhere in their behavior. Second, she has found that such behavior leads to long-term distress and to deterioration of a marriage. Next, she has found how in-law conflict is embedded within kinship structures and family systems. Finally, she has listened to people plead for help in understanding these relationships and resolving in-law conflict.[xii]

In many a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationship, there is a sense of rivalry. “’A woman and her mother-in-law are in a triangular relationship with the same man, says Dr. Judith Sills. “The daughter-in-law’s gain is frequently the mother-in-law’s loss and when another woman has caused you a loss, no matter how intellectually understandable it is, it’s hard to take.”’[xiii] A fear of losing a son or daughter and wanting to maintain a loving relationship are some of the most common sources of in-law conflicts. Fear can cause responsibility to be replaced with confusion and suspicion. A mother-in law does lose life as she knew it with her son or daughter when they become involved in a serious relationship. “An effective strategy for dealing with competitive feelings is to realize that part of your mother-in-law’s possessiveness is natural as part of being a mother. Mothers are willing to give up everything for their children but they also have a need to be connected. Your mother-in-law may never stop feeling it’s her job to be a caretaker to your husband. Asking her to give up control completely and let you be the only influential woman in your husband’s life is asking the impossible.”[xiv] Each mother is naturally biased to her own children. Some women may never understand until they become a mother-in-law, how it may hurt just to not see your son or daughter as much after the wedding as before.

Women are aware of the power and control that they have over their husbands and visits with in-laws. Mary Kassian in “Conversation Peace” says, “A gate of control is erected when we seek to manipulate, trap, or coerce others into agreeing with our perspective. We have to recognize that all knowledge, strength, greatness and the right to rule belong to God and not to any in-law however in control they think they are.”[xv] A mother-in-law is very aware of the power a daughter-in-law has to edge her out of her son’s life. If we want to tear down a control issue, we must relinquish our claim to superiority and the right to rule others by coercion, manipulation or force. In Jeremiah 9:23-24, we are told to boast in who God is not in our control. Great in-law relationships are built on caring and love not on power and control.

In close relationships, we must accept different qualities and different feelings. We begin this acceptance as a baby, when we love our parents but we are also angry with them when they do not satisfy us or cannot protect us from all illnesses. We continue this emotional integration with our siblings whom we love and resent as rivals. We planned to continue integrating mixed feeling when we marry. When it comes to in-laws, we may lack the strong emotional bond that integrates mixed feelings with other family members. We can learn how to manage these relationships, to improve them and mature what is good in them.[xvi]

In a book about in-laws, the author says that when couples get married the husband’s parents go through an Adjustment Stage in which they let go of their grown son so he can transfer loyalty from his parents to his wife. The author says it is impossible for her to like her in-laws while they are in the Adjustment Stage. This statement is based on how loyal her husband is to his parents and his parents to him.[xvii] How sad that the author has written in a book for thousands of women to read that it is impossible for her to like her in-laws in the adjustment stage. We do not ever need to decide a relationship is impossible. What is impossible with us is possible with God. When we decide that in-laws must act a certain way for us to like them or our husband must act a certain way to his parents for us to like our in-laws, we have set ourselves up as the judge and jury of deciding who is right and wrong. In Romans 15:7, Paul says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”  Praise God, I did not have to act a certain way for God to like me or love me. When I was in the Adjustment Stage of transferring my loyalty to Him, He liked and loved me anyway and by the way it is a continual process of transferring my loyalty to Him. As an in-law, it is a continual process of transferring my loyalty from everything in my life to totally Jesus. I am to accept my in-laws just as Christ accepted me to bring praise to God. Christ showed me the example of accepting me so I could accept others. When I like, and love my in-laws, I am bringing praise to the one who ultimately accepted me. Praise Jesus, He accepts me just as I am.

When there are “in-law” clashes, ultimately it takes a toll on the family. Spouses and children may feel like a “middle man” and forced to take sides. Family gatherings can be strained. “’Mother-in-law battles can poison family life,’ Dr. Sills, a family counselor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a special interest in the role of in-laws said. ‘It may start out as a feud between you and your mother-in-law but before you know it, your husband, kids, father-in-law and other relatives are also drawn into the conflict.’”[xviii] The in-laws we have are a part of the lives of the people we love. They want the assurance of enjoying continuing the family bonds with their children and grandchildren. A wife may not be best friends with her mother-in-law but it is important to have a good relationship with her.

However, when problems arise, setting aside a time to talk in a relaxed and stress-free setting is helpful. This is essential because, we tend to get hurt, angry and bitter by not being willing to talk the problem out in the relationship. We tend to believe that the problem will just go away or get better if we just say nothing. When we fail to clean out the lint screen on a clothes dryer, the lint becomes like a fire starter.  A fire is waiting to happen. When we allow unresolved hurts to fester, they can burn to the ground an in-law relationship. Dealing with hurt relationships can be a way not to destroying a relationship. Remember, bad news does not get better with time.

Mothers also like to be needed by their children even if just for a little bit.  A daughter-in-law may insinuate by her actions, “He doesn’t need you anymore; I can take care of all his needs now.” This situation leaves a mother trying to figure out just what her relationship is with her son. It is in the nature of a mother to want to help her children but now what she attempts to do is met by, “He doesn’t need this; I will take care of him.” A son needs to reassure his mother that he wants to continue a good relationship with her. A son can be loyal to his wife and be a good son.  A mother has to find a new relationship with her son.

How do we change all this mutual unease and damaged relationship? The Bible presents a prime example with the life of Naomi. The mother-in-law in the Bible who, like us, did not always get it right but was miraculously included in God’s plan for the lineage of Christ. Through many mistakes, God made it clear to me that I needed to study the biblical view of a mother-in-law. As we look at in-law relationships, it would not be complete without wisdom from God’s Word, God’s love and grace experienced in the book of Ruth. In the pages of Ruth, we have a beautiful example of faithful love between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law.

Order your copy today for the rest of the story at http://www.mothersinlawrejoice.com/its-all-about-the-mother-in-law-bible-study-a-biblical-and-personal-journey-through-the-land-of-in-laws/

 

 

 

 

Italian Meatball Soup

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This Meatball Soup is really good on a cold winter day. This recipe was given to me by a special friend, Jo Shook.  I adapted it for us.

Italian Meatball Soup

26-28 ounces of Frozen fully cooked Italian beef meatballs

2 small packages of stream fresh mixed vegetables

1 32 ounce carton of Beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

3 cups of water

2 cups of small shell or penne pasta

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp Parsley

1/2 tsp Garlic salt

1 tsp basil

1/2 tsp celery salt

Combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and cook 30 min to 1 hour.

Then enjoy the day you make it and then another cold wintery day.